When Trent Dilfer heaved a Hail Mary pass toward the end zone, it was just like an ordinary practice for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with everybody bumping and shoving, their hands clawing at the air.
Only this time, the play counted.
“Nobody is serious in practice, we just jump around a lot. But we know in the back of our minds there will be a time in the game when it will actually come into play,” Tampa Bay receiver Bert Emanuel said. “It’s one of those things you get a feel for it, you know what it’s supposed to do and you know what your job is.”
And Tampa Bay did it on Sunday as Emanuel tipped Dilfer’s desperation pass to Brice Hunter, who came from out of bounds to catch the go-ahead touchdown on the final play of the first half in the Buccaneers’ 31-17 victory over the Chicago Bears.
“Some guy pushed me out of bounds when the ball was in the air and I just came back in and the ball was right there,” Hunter said.
The ball looked like it might have hit the ground before Hunter caught it, but referee Ed Hochuli said officials were right there and it didn’t.
“The ball didn’t hit the ground,” Dilfer said. “I could see it like it was in slow motion.”
The victory was Tampa Bay’s first at Soldier Field since 1989, and ended a losing streak at three games for the Buccaneers (5-7). It was the fourth consecutive loss for the Bears (3-9), whose mistakes led to all but three of Tampa Bay’s points.
Dilfer was 13 for 22 for 153 yards and three touchdowns. Chicago rookie Moses Moreno, making his first NFL start, was 18 for 41 for 153 yards and one touchdown. With Erik Kramer to have surgery Wednesday on his throwing shoulder, Moreno will be the Bears’ starter the rest of the season, Coach Dave Wannstedt said.